US tells North Korea no

SEOUL/GENEVA — North Korea insisted today that it be recognised as a nuclear weapons state, a demand the United States promptly dismissed as “neither realistic nor acceptable”.

After weeks of tension on the Korean peninsula, including North Korean threats of nuclear war, the North has in recent days begun to at least talk about dialogue in response to calls for talks from both the United States and South Korea.

The North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper rejected as unacceptable the US and South Korean condition that it agree to dismantle its nuclear weapons and suspend missile launches before talks can begin.

“If the DPRK sits at a table with the US, it has to be a dialogue between nuclear weapons states, not one side forcing the other to dismantle nuclear weapons,” the newspaper said.

The United States swiftly rejected Pyongyang’s claim of nuclear status, while NATO foreign ministers condemned its pursuit of ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes and called for “credible” talks to be held on denuclearisation.

“North Korea’s demand to be recognised as a nuclear weapons state is neither realistic nor acceptable,” Thomas Countryman, US Assistant Secretary for International Security and Non-Proliferation, told Reuters in Geneva.

Countryman told reporters yesterday: “It is important that the world respond calmly but deliberately without changing our emphasis that the goal of the world to which North Korea is committed is a denuclearised Korean peninsula. (Reuters)

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